Dr Joanna Latimer - Medical Research Council - see here at the Invest in ME International ME/CFS Conference 2008 - with Professor Malcolm Hooper



by Joanna Latimer PhD

Programme Manager
Neurosciences & Mental Health Board
Medical Research Council
20 Park Crescent

The Medical Research Council (MRC) is a publicly-funded organisation dedicated to improving human health. We support research across the entire spectrum of medical sciences, in UK universities and hospitals and in our own units and institutes. The MRC welcomes high-quality applications for support into any aspect of human health from research into the basic aspects of disease through to early stage clinical trials which are generally received in ‘response-mode’. All applications are judged in open competition with other demands on funding and awards are made according to scientific quality following rigorous peer review by other experts in the field.

In May 2003 the MRC published a research strategy for CFS/ME developed by an independent scientific Research Advisory Group. The Group made a number of recommendations, including that in the short term the research community should be encouraged to develop high quality research proposals addressing case definition, understanding of the symptoms of CFS/ME, and new approaches to disease management. As a result, CFS/ME has been highlighted as a strategic priority for the MRC.  

Since issuing this highlight notice we have seen a small increase in the number of applications received, and the ratio of awarded CFS/ME applications to those submitted is in line with that seen for other disease areas. As with all applications, decisions to accept or decline proposals are made on the grounds of scientific quality and whether the research proposed would be likely to inform the knowledge base. It should be emphasised that all applications are judged in open competition, and support of existing research in any area does not preclude funds being available for other proposals that meet the scientific standards set by our peer review system.

The MRC recognises that CFS/ME is a complex condition and that more research needs to be done in this area. For example, in November 2006 the MRC and the charity Action for M.E. hosted a scientific workshop to identify opportunities for biomedical research into CFS/ME. The programme included presentations on the funder’s and patients’ perspective, as well as an overview of UK and worldwide research. The meeting generated a number of ideas for future research into a diverse range of topics, from the relationship between CFS/ME and sleep to biological markers including neurological factors, definitions of sub-groups, and a longitudinal study of children. A number of proposals for pilot studies have since been formulated and are under consideration for funding. 

The MRC remains committed to funding scientific research into all aspects of CFS/ME including studies into the biological basis of the condition and evaluations of treatment options. In order to further stimulate research into CFS/ME, and in particular focussing on the causes of the condition, MRC is planning to set up an inter-disciplinary panel that will review the current research in the area and identify research opportunities. We hope that this will encourage new research towards understanding the aetiology and subtypes of CFS/ME and lead to an advancement of knowledge in this field and the development of new therapeutic approaches.

For more information on the MRC and CFS/ME, visit